Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads -- What I Learned

Now that I'm finished with my reading for the Hugo award voting, I can look back on the experience and reflect. Because, to quote Shakespeare, "forsooth, what good is a blog, if not to gaze at one's navel?"*
  • Too Much Short Fiction: I understand the motivation behind 3 categories of shorter fiction (it's a great way for new authors to get attention/experience and can give interim revenue between longer works to new and established authors), but as a reader, the divisions seem arbitrary. Especially as at least 3 of the 10 novellas/novelettes were clearly subsections of larger works. From a pre-vote reading perspective, I hope that these two categories are combined before next year.
  • So Many Beards and Hats: Everyone has their own personal style (mine is "meh"), but plenty of male SFF authors are rockin' the "beard and wide-brimmed hat" in their photos. I'm not sure why it's so popular, but it certainly seems like it is. If anyone is looking for a subject for a "Related Work" for next year's voting, investigating the rise of this phenomenon will get a nom from me (I'm betting Robert Jordan's popularity is partly responsible).
  • So Many Apostrophes: When SFF authors want to make a word or name sound exotic, their favorite method is to toss in an apostrophe or two. Some authors are more consistent with this than others, but it's played out. Unless an author explains (in an appendix, I don't need in-story pronounciation guides) how it sounds, just skip it. It's distracting and a bit annoying.
  • And Where's The Fantasy: While both sci-fi and fantasy are eligible, the nominees in each category have more sci-fi. I'm not sure if this is a trend (and I don't have enough interest to do the googling & counting) or the result of a personal Hugo nominations sample size of 1, but I'm curious about what it looks like next year.
  • Everyone Needs to Chill: The big controversy of the Sad/Rabid Puppies and their calls for more pulp-y fiction/unsung writers (Sad) and more works published by the leader of the Rabid Puppies (Rabid) has caused quite the Internet shitstorm. As always, this was handled on all sides with polite, measured discourse that never crossed the line. Or, not -- people were doxxed, the cops were warned of potential violence at WorldCon, etc. In other words, the same crap idiots do everyday on the Tinterwebs. Why people feel that anonymity is an assholery license, I do not know. Ugh. And lots of people online claim they automatically put Puppy noms below No Award without reading them. They were nominated without breaking the rules, read them and then rank them -- give them a fair chance. If you still think they're pedestrian* works riding a slate, then vote them below No Award (which I did with most, but not all). Don't punish the authors for something that they may not control***.
  • Don't Wait And Binge: I read most of the works in two short binges bookending my vacation, and this was a mistake. A lot of the short fiction was similar in style, and I think my ratings were lower because of it. Next year I plan to spread it out a bit, and hopefully have already read some of the noms.
  • There's Just So Much: I didn't vote in a bunch of categories (fanzines, art, etc.) that I didn't have any opinion/experience with, and I didn't have time to search it all out. Maybe next year, but maybe not. I don't feel that one has to participate in all aspects of SFF. It should be enjoyable, not a chore!

So, will I do it again? Definitely! Overall, I'd give the experience a 3.5 out of 5 (4.5 for novels, 3 for the rest), and I'm excited to participate again next year.

* I wouldn't waste a lot of time search for this quote in your Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
** Not literally pedestrian. Though that would be impressive, if they wrote the stories while walking.
*** I can see doing this for nominees whose behavior, on- or off-line, is far beyond what you consider acceptable, but I think one should generally only rank stuff you are familiar with.

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